The Bord Gáis Energy U21 hurling championship is one of the most competitive grades in the country and Cork face an especially tough task.
Limerick are at home and loaded with talent, from Seán Finn, in defence, up to Peter Casey, at corner-forward, and Cian Lynch, sweeping out the middle.
John Meyler’s side might have Shane Kingston, Mark Coleman, and Deccie Dalton, who hit 1-12 in the semi against Waterford, but Darragh Fitzgibbon is suspended, and Billy Hennessy and Luke Meade injured.
But nothing fazes Collins. He is from a real hurling clan in the south-east. His father, Pat, was a fine keeper with Ballinhassig, wearing the blue with distinction. His mother, Ina, hails from Glenville, and is connected to Brian Murphy, and has the same passion for GAA.
Leading the way for Ger and Patrick, eldest brother, Matthew, was a Cork underage goalie before them. Their other brother, Michael, played midfield for the Cork intermediates last Sunday, against Kilkenny, scoring two fine points, while Patrick manned the goal. Their sister, Catriona, plays, too – outfield with Ballinhassig’s camogie team.
“My mother and father both love the game,” says Patrick. “The hurling background came from there, from a very young age. I always had a hurley in my hand. I loved it.
“Playing out the back garden with the father and the sister and the brothers… the youngest fella had to go in goal!”
Despite that, he was initially a dangerous forward for the club and, up to this season, hurled in attack for Ballinhassig, putting up some serious tallies, while also taking the frees.
“It was only when the age group above me were stuck for a goalie — and my father was selector with that group — that I went in. It was with Carrigdhoun and Cork development squads, U14 up, that I realised playing in goal was my best position.”
He grew up watching some of the top hurling goalies of all-time from the terrace, but had plenty of inspiration closer to home. “Martin Coleman was Ballinhassig goalie. He played outfield a small bit, too, when my brother (Matthew) was in goal, and he was involved with Cork, too, so, of course, I watched him, learned a lot from him.
“Ballinhassig has a good tradition with keepers, going back to Martin Coleman senior in the 1970s, with Cork’s three-in-a-row team.
“I always paid particular attention to Donal Óg and Brendan Cummins, the keepers of that era.
“My brother (who now plays with Kilmacud Crokes, in Dublin) taught me a lot about the position and he still does. He gives me advice and I’m still relatively young and inexperienced, so I’ll take advice.”
It’s been a hectic few months for Collins, between Ballinhassig and CIT duty, plus games for the U21s and intermediates, as well as acting as Anthony Nash’s back-up.
He’s also working in the new Tequila Jack’s bar and restaurant on Lapp’s Quay, which has a local connection, through former Cork hurler, Seanie McCarthy. “Seanie is a legend in our club. He does his best for both club and county, in fairness to him.
“There’s nothing better than playing games, especially during the summer. It’s been a very enjoyable one, so far.”
He got to pull on the Cork geansaí in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday, even if the intermediates were beaten in the All-Ireland final, their only game of a truncated championship, against Kilkenny.
“It’s an absolutely unbelievable stadium. The facilities are magnificent and it’s fantastic for Cork hurling.
“Hopefully, there will be many great days down there ahead.”
They could have a great one tonight, in Limerick, and Collins is the only member of the team to have featured in the county’s last Munster U21 decider — when he was still minor — when Clare proved far too strong.
“In fairness, that was an awesome Clare team and they put up a big score. We’d no arguments.”
Though he got a thrill out of Cork’s semi-final win over Waterford, with Deccie Dalton (who was the minor keeper two years ago) the hero to the tune of 1-12, he knows it won’t count for much here. At the start of the year, Deccie was playing in goal when I was with the senior lads and it’s only in the last few weeks he’s been outfield.
“Everyone in Cork hurling, though, knows how good he is there with Fr O’Neill’s (who Ballinhassig meet in the next round of the PIHC incidentally).
“He’s been doing damage in big games for a long time.
“What he did in the Waterford game is put to bed, though, because it’s a different challenge. That one is done.”
The Gaelic Grounds hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Cork teams, only as recently as the footballers’ extra-time loss to Mayo.
"You can’t dwell too much on the venues or home or away. Limerick came down to us last year and they beat us down in Páirc Uí Rinn and we went down to Waterford and beat them... When the ball is thrown in, you don’t think about where the game is on.”